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Journal of Sensors
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 819373, 10 pages
Research Article

Binding Quantum Dots to Silk Biomaterials for Optical Sensing

1College of Chemical Engineering and Material Chemistry, Heilongjiang University, Harbin 150086, China
2National Engineering Laboratory for Modern Silk, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China
3Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA

Received 18 May 2015; Accepted 26 July 2015

Academic Editor: Won-Gun Koh

Copyright © 2015 Disi Lu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Quantum dots (QDs), have great potential for fabricating optical sensing devices and imaging biomaterial degradation in vivo. In the present study, 2-mercaptoethylamine- (MEA-) and mercaptopropionic acid- (MPA-) capped CdTe-QDs were physically incorporated in silk films that contained a high content (>30%) of crystalline beta-sheet structure. The beta-sheets were induced by the addition of glycerol, water annealing, glycerol/annealing, or treatment with methanol. Incorporation of QDs did not influence the formation of beta-sheets. When the films were extracted with water, most QDs remained associated with the silk, based on the retention of photoluminescence in the silk films and negligible photoluminescence in the extracts. Compared to the solution state, photoluminescence intensity significantly decreased for MEA-QDs but not for MPA-QDs in the silk films, while the emission maximum blue shifted (≈4 nm) slightly for both. Further film digestion using protease XIV, alpha-chymotrypsin, and the combination of the two proteases suggested that QDs may be bound to the silk beta-sheet regions but not the amorphous regions. QDs photoluminescence in silk films was quenched when the concentration of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) was above 0.2-0.3 mM, indicating the QDs-incorporated silk films can be used to report oxidation potential in solution.